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'The nail in the coffin': Kent business shuts down due to labor shortage

Prop Gallery Events has been in business for 23 years but is closing its doors for good because there aren't enough people looking for jobs.

KENT, Wash. — State unemployment claims fell to one of the lowest rates last month since the start of the pandemic at 4.9%.

But even with fewer people filing for unemployment Washington is still in the middle of a hiring crisis, impacting businesses.

Prop Gallery Events turns places like gymnasiums or conference rooms into spectacular party spaces with homemade props, a world-class collection of drapery and a dedicated crew of specialized employees.

Halloween is normally one of the busiest times of the year, according to owner Greg Olsen.

“On a normal day like today midweek like this, we would have a production crew in here, getting everything ready getting spider webs, and all the different specialty props that would work so well in people's homes,” Olsen said.

After COVID-19 shut down most events last year, business spiked this summer as people partied. He was booking more events than ever until he ran into a problem.

“The challenge became finding enough staff to support our key leads, our key installers, the key designers who make all these weddings so terrific. We just had a hard time finding those support people,” he said. "What really was the nail in the coffin was just too many jobs back to back to back and too few people to do it.”

Olsen said he kept wages competitive over the years, he’s tried finding staff through temp companies and ads but nothing has worked.

It wasn’t COVID-19 or canceled events that did him in, but the labor shortage.

 “I thought, you know, it probably makes sense that I just shut this business down, contact my key clients and my friends in this industry and just let them know we had a really, really, really good run,” he explained.

This past Sunday Olsen set up his last event.

“I lost it. I mean, the tears are coming down I because I realized that this was really the last time that I was going to be in a position to enjoy all the excitement, the fun of doing décor for all these large events.”

Olsen hopes a larger company will acquire Prop Gallery and keep the business going, but for now, it's so long to a business he's known and loved for 23 years.

 “There's not many people to do what we do. So, there'll be a void,” he said.